How One Small Chick-Fil-A Restaurant Created a Community-Wide Impact

Kristen Eleveld

Cliff Daniels has literally spent a lifetime learning the ins and outs of running a restaurant – specifically, Chick-fil-A, a brand that has endeared itself to people nationwide for decades. So it should come as no surprise that the location he runs is one of the busiest and most successful businesses in the Stone Mountain area. What started as a small operation has become a force for positivity and goodwill for everyone around.

And, as with all happy endings, it took a lot of work to make a dream a reality. When Cliff came on as the operator for the Stone Mountain Chick-fil-A at the end of 2013, he saw a need for change. There was a lot of unrealized potential in many areas across the board. The first changes, however, were not the external ones. Cliff saw that his team needed to create a new mission and culture that truly emphasized their love and goodwill for their neighbors. A new mission statement was created – and people in the community took note. By 2017, it was evident that the community had embraced those changes.

While Cliff and the team welcomed the positive changes, the increased amount of service they were now providing made it increasingly difficult for the restaurant to serve all its customers with the speed, accuracy, and customer service that had made the brand so famous.

“There weren’t enough seats for our guests inside, and we were running out of parking spaces,” said Cliff. “People had to cross the drive-through area to come into the restaurant, which can be very dangerous.”

It was exceedingly clear that a change was needed if the Stone Mountain location wanted to serve its community to the best of its ability. Cliff and the Chick-fil-A corporate team put their heads together and came up with a plan. Instead of trying to fit their community within the current restaurant, they decided to build a restaurant that would fit their community.

The building itself was small, but sat on a larger patch of land that was also owned by Chick-fil-A. The Stone Mountain restaurant partnered with its corporate headquarters and the Gwinnett County Planning Division to design a new space that would offer more seating, better parking, and a more efficient drive-through area.

With an additional 2,000 square feet that also included a major kitchen renovation, the restaurant nearly doubled its capacity to make and serve the chicken they’re famous for – not to mention the seasonal milkshakes. They added refrigerators, fryers, grills, a dedicated dish cleaning area and isolated prep area, and a breakroom for team members, and they updated all the equipment for easier and more efficient use.

Even the drive-through area received a makeover. Long canopies were added over much of the drive-through lane, along with heaters and fans to use in all types of weather. These much-needed improvements allowed team member working in the drive-through section to do their job in a comfortable, safe environment (which, in turn, boosts the team’s morale as whole). These updates gave the restaurant everything it needed to give each guest a memorable and delicious dining experience.

“I’m very grateful that Chick-fil-A had a vision that served both the community and team members better,” said Cliff of the updated restaurant.

Now that the renovations have been completed just over a month ago, the team is back to serving each guest that walks through their doors. Looking to the future, Cliff says he wants to continue to build up both the community and his team members, who he notes are integral to the success of their store.

“Everyone has a story,” Cliff said, referring not only to the restaurant guests but also to the 130 employees who are there to serve them. “We can’t change someone’s circumstances, but we can give them honor, dignity, and respect every single day that they are here.”

The Stone Mountain location is committed to making every person inside its building feel welcomed and valued. Their mission statement says it all – their goal each day is “To be a light in the darkness and a safe place for team members and guests.”

While these words sound nice on paper, it’s the action put behind them that makes this Chick-fil-A restaurant stand out. Regular guests are greeted by name, and oftentimes team members follow up by asking a guest about school, work, or another personal detail they have taken time to remember. Team leads and managers do the same for their team members. Cliff is particularly careful to call each team member by name and offer support or interest for their families, sports careers, or after-school activities. Many team members are new to both the industry and the location, so they have spent hours learning the ropes and getting to know each other as they work to serve their guests.

“We have an opportunity to be a force for good, and to create a place where good meets gracious,” said Cliff. “Our team is doing more than just clocking in. They want to have a positive influence on the community.”

If all this talk of Chick-fil-A is making your mouth water, you know what to do: Head to 5075 Stone Mountain Hwy, Stone Mountain, GA 30087 to order your favorite meal. Say hello to Cliff and the team while you’re there – you will probably make a friend for life.

Cliff Daniels is Operator of Chick-fil-A Stone Mountain. More information at www.cfastonemountain.com

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